Bean: We're about to see just how much Tom Brady can carry an offense


One Tom Brady-less day, sooner rather than later (to borrow a phrase), Patriots fans are going to watch their team and realize just how important having a great quarterback is. 

Let's hope they'll realize it before then, too. Specifically, the season. 

Because if this offense, with all of its questions at receiver and all of its uncertainty on the offensive line, ends up being a world-beater once again, it might be the most Brady has singlehandedly lifted a group in his entire Patriots tenure. 

The NFL MVP has only gone to the league leader in passing touchdowns in two of the past eight seasons, so it's not like you necessarily need the loudest stats to win the award. Team success is a big part of it. By that measure, if Brady has a Brady-like season with this group, he'll be as deserving of the distinction as he has in his three MVP seasons to date. 

Look at Brady's receivers and where they ranked last season in receptions. It's not good. 

The leader is easy. Rob Gronkowski was tied for 24th with, of course, 69. 

In order to find the next guy on the Patriots roster, you've got to go past multiple former Pats (Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola) and go all the way to No. 57, where James White is tied with 57 receptions. Then Eric Decker is tied for 61st (54) and Chris Hogan is tied for 114th (34). 

Now, Hogan was limited to nine games and Julian Edelman missed the entire season, so it's not like this is a terrible group. It's just not a deep group at all, and the team's two best wide receivers are coming off injury-plagued seasons.

With it being a questionable group beyond Gronkowski, the lack of other threats might inspire defenses to pay extra close attention to Gronkowski, making a 41-year-old's job a little more difficult.

The obvious comparison is 2006, when Reche Caldwell was the Pats' No. 1 receiver. Then again, Brady was better last season than he was in 2006, so even if he drops off a bit, you're still talking about an MVP-caliber player throwing to these guys. Brady did not receive an MVP vote in 2006; his 24 touchdowns were his lowest total in a full season since then. 

If you followed along with offseason reports (or, like me, had faith in the player), you at least considered the possibility that the Patriots planned on Kenny Britt being a legitimate piece of an offense that was already rail-thin at receiver. 

Britt wouldn't have been high on that list either given that he played sparingly for the Browns and was cut, but he would have given Brady a good route-running veteran with good seasons under his belt. That's also what the Pats hoped they were getting with Decker, who has hardly shined in the preseason. 

So maybe Cordarrelle Patterson (31 receptions in 16 games last season) finally ends up being the dependable receiver the Vikings wanted when they drafted him 29th overall in 2013. Ditto for 2015 Colts first-rounder Phillip Dorsett. Maybe Braxton Berrios proves to be the steal of the draft and shines as a rookie. Maybe Riley McCarron turns into the guy Texans coach Bill O'Brien thought he could be. 

But if none of those things happen (and Sony Michel is held back by injury) and this offense still goes out and scores 27-plus a week, it will be all about the quarterback. 

In some respects, that really wouldn't be new. Brady has always been the primary reason for the Belichick Patriots' offensive success. He's just never had to do so much of it on his own. 


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